NYC public libraries fight book banning by giving readers across the U.S. access to free e-books

April 13, 2022

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Blanc / NYPL

New York City’s public libraries are taking on book banning. The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library this week announced separate initiatives to provide access to books to readers across the country. Under its “Books for All” effort, the NYPL made electronic copies of commonly banned books, including The Catcher in the Rye and Speak, available through their e-reading app, SimplyE, to anyone in the United States. Similarly, the BPL launched “Books UnBanned,” which gives free digital library cards to teens and young adults nationwide.

Image courtesy of the New York Public Library

Attempts to ban books from libraries have increased across the country. According to the American Library Association, there were 729 attempted bans of 1,597 individual books in 2021.

“These recent instances of censorship and book banning are extremely disturbing and amount to an all-out attack on the very foundation of our democracy,” New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx, said.

“Knowledge is power; ignorance is dangerous and breeds hate and division. Since their inception, public libraries have worked to combat these forces simply by making all perspectives and ideas accessible to all, regardless of background or circumstance.”

NYPL’s “Books For All” effort comes as a partnership with publishers Hachette Book Group, Scholastic, and Macmillian Publishers. The e-books offered by the NYPL will be available until the end of May with no waits or fines.

To access the collection, download the library’s free SimplyE app, locate the “Books For All collection,” and find the “unbanned books” section within the collection. Afterward, check out any desired title. More information can be found on the NYPL’s website.

The Brooklyn Public Library’s Books UnBanned initiative will be available to those aged 13 to 21. The digital library cards, valid for a full year, will provide access to the BPL’s collection of 350,000 e-books, 200,000 audiobooks, and over 100 databases. Participating teens will also be connected with their peers through BPL’s “Intellectual Freedom Teen Council,” a virtual resource that provides teens with information to fight censorship and gives them book recommendations.

A selection of frequently banned books will be available with no holds or wait times for all BPL cardholders, including The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, Tomboy by Liz Prince, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones, and more.

“Brooklyn Public Library stands firmly against censorship and for the principles of intellectual freedom—the right of every individual to seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction,” Nick Higgins, chief librarian at BPL, said. “Limiting access or providing one-sided information is a threat to democracy itself.”

To apply for the eCard, interested teens can send an email to [email protected] or direct message the BPL’s teen-run Instagram account, @bklynfuture.


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